Disagreement and Doubts About Darwinian Debunking

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-15 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Evolutionary debunking arguments draw on claims about the biological origins of our moral beliefs to undermine moral realism. In this paper, I argue that moral disagreement gives us reason to doubt the evolutionary explanations of moral judgment on which such arguments rely. The extent of cross-cultural and historical moral diversity suggests that evolution can’t explain the content of moral norms. Nor can it explain the capacity to make moral judgment in the way the debunker requires: empirical studies of folk moral judgments show that they lack the kind of objectivity debunkers point to as an evolutionary contribution to our capacity for moral judgment. Thus, the empirical premise of debunking arguments lacks empirical support.

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Alexandra Plakias
Hamilton College